Champagne Larmandier open at our last Wine Wednesday of the year… tonight at 5.30pm…

We’re sharing the love at our last official Wellington Wine Wednesday of the year at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington tonight from 5.30pm to 7pm…

We are cracking open this outstanding champagne, which ticks all the taste boxes and then some, thanks to winemaker Pierre Larmandier…

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Latitude is…

Made from biodynamically grown grapes (think: organic but on a whole new level)

Hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts (no commercial yeasts added)

Fermented in a combo of wood and stainless steel

Aged on lees in the bottle for 2 years, which is 6 months longer than the legal minimum aging time

Given a super low 4 grams per litre of dosage – it’s extra dry, in other words

Bottled aged for 6 months prior to release

Come and join us for a free taste of one of a 100% Chardonnay (blancs de blanc) champagne, which we usually sell for $95.99 and today it is on special for $89.99… it’s not an every day price but then this is not an everyday wine – it’s something super special.

We will also be selling Robert Walters’ new book Champagne – A Secret History for $36.99 – a book that shakes up all your thinking about what champagne is, should be and could be.


Wine Wednesdays 2018… kick off again on 10 January

PS: Our next Wine Wednesday will be on Wednesday 10 January and we’ll have 2016 Fromm Riesling Spatlese open for free tasting, with a discount on the bottle that night.

Top 5 drops… top wines, tough choices

This is the eighth year running that the Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection has been put together as a case of the best 12 wines. Read on for my top five.

Arid, dry, stony ‘soils’ (if you could call them that) are the story of the 800 hectares of Gimblett Gravels (GG) vineyard area, which was first planted in grapes in 1981. Red grapes dominate  90% of the GG area…


The wines in the Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection were all selected from submissions made by wineries to the Australian based Master of Wine, Andrew Caillard.

He ranked and rated the wines to come up with the top 12 and then I ranked and rated them to come up with following five – my distillation of his favourites.

I hope you enjoy the line up and the read.

PS: Below the wine reviews (scroll down) you can read a snapshot that explains what The Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection is all about.

PPS: One complaint; I wish the producers would use screw caps on these wines, which would undoubtedly preserve them in more consistent condition and minimise the risk of possible wine faults.

You can buy the 2015 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection from


Top Syrah – Le Sol

Craggy Range Syrah vines on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay at dusk…

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels $136, 13.5% ABV


A top drop at a top price from the Gimblett Gravels; the name Le Sol refers to the Heritage Syrah clone, which winemaker Matt Stafford uses to make this bone dry, dark purple hued Syrah. The grapes were 100% hand harvested at 23.9 prix and fermented in open top French oak then aged in 30% new French barriques for 17 months. It’s unfined (so, technically, it could quality as vegan) and it was coarsely filtered. Now the technical stuff is out of the way, what does it taste like?
Incredibly dry, youthful and super powerful on the dark fruit flavoured front – it drinks well now, if you decant it at least three hours prior to drinking and serve in large glassware. Otherwise, stash it in a dark cool spot for at least 5 years. It will age superbly.

Cork closure.

Buy from Craggy Range


Sensational Syrah

2015 Ka Tahi Wines Rangatira Gimblett Gravels Reserve Syrah 13.4% ABV


This wine is a surprise, in so many ways. To start off with, it’s an unusual bottle because the traditional Bordeaux shape suggests Cabernet and Merlot rather than Syrah. And this may seem like a moot point (bottle shape doesn’t alter the taste, right?) but this wine is surprising in other ways too – its flavours verge on smooth soft caramel and far far nicer in terms of its riper flavours – dark fruit and dark plums and very smooth flavours and long finish… This is the wine of the five that I would opt to drink now, but there is no doubt it can age – for at least 5-6 years. A stunner.

Buy from Ka Tahi


Babich beauty

2015 Babich The Patriarch $79.99, 13.5% ABV


This wine lives up to its name; it’s an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 51%, Merlot 27%, and Malbec 22% (of which there’s precious little in New Zealand). The colour is deep ruby, opaque and stylistically this is an open wine right now with forward fruit flavours that intermingle with notes of spice (cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg…) and a full bodied, long smooth finish. It’s a lovely drink now and also needs to be decanted. It will age for at least 5-6 years.

Cork closure.

Buy from Babich Wines


Sacred Syrah

2015 Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah $59.99, 13% ABV


Excellent complex Syrah with dark ruby colour, bone dry style and a full body with rich dark fruit. It could age well but is open to drinking and enjoying now too; thanks to its smooth, soft, velvety mouthfeel and powerful dark fruit flavours, which intermingle beautifully with notes of spice, cedar and a hint of pepper. It’s one of my top three wines of the 2015 Gimblett Gravels line up.

Cork closure.

Buy from


The top value red – Vidal

2015 Vidal Reserve Syrah $24.99


Tasty. And a bargain to boot. This Syrah has to take the top prize when it comes to value for money, but don’t let that dissuade you from enjoying its massively complex, rich, dark, powerful and intense fruit flavours and complexity. It’s full bodied, youthfully complex, fruit forward but has great ageing potential for at least 5-6 years. It is best served in a large glass after it has been decanted for at least three hours.

Sealed with a screw cap.

Buy from Vidal Estate


Wine fact file

The Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection

The 2015 selection is the eighth consecutive one following the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages; its aim is to provide:

  • a perspective on the style of Gimblett Gravels wines from one year
  • to show the evolution and progression of the wines

The 2015 Annual Vintage Selection includes seven blended reds and five Syrahs, all independently selected from submissions made independently by wineries to Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

The full line up of wines

Blended reds

2015 Babich Irongate, $39.95

2015 Babich The Patriarch, $79.95

2015 Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Merlot $29

2015 Sacred Hill Brokenstone $49.99

2015 Stonecroft Cabernet Sauvignon $47

2015 Te Awa Single Estate Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon $29

2015 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot $49.99


2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah $135

2015 Ka Tahi Rangatira Syrah $29.99

2015 Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah $59.99

2015 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah $35

2015 Vidal Reserve Syrah $24.99

Prices quoted are recommended retail and do vary.


Breaking news… Craggy Range opens new cellar door

The cellar door of one of Hawke’s Bay’s largest wineries reopened last week after six weeks of refurbishment, which saw the space completely gutted to make way for a relaxed tasting experience.

Craggy Range general manager Aaron Drummond says the new cellar door, which opened this week, was modelled on its Northern Hemisphere counterparts in the Californian wine regions of the Sonoma and Napa valleys.

“The United States wine industry is much further advanced in delivering a great customer experience. Our visitors can still enjoy the more traditional tasting at the bench/bar, but for those that are interested in learning more about the wines, sitting down in a relaxed environment and tasting with the staff is a much more interesting and enjoyable experience.”

With the reopening of the cellar door, a new bites and platter menu has been designed for  Terroir restaurant by head chef Casey McDonald, who began this year. i

The Cellar Door is at the Giants Winery on Waimarama Road and is open seven days from 10am to 6pm.

The project is the first stage of a two part redesign for the cellar door and will be followed by the Terroir by Craggy Range restaurant in winter 2018. Design on both has been led by Paul Izzard from Izzard Design.

Trinity Hill Homage… the journey of a great Syrah

Best ever is a big claim but when the product in question has evolved as radically as the new 2015 Trinity Hill Homage Syrah has, it’s a claim worth investigating. Last month a bunch of wine writers had the chance to do just that at a tasting of every vintage of Homage ever made in Hawke’s Bay. I was invited .

The newest wine from 2015 is the best yet, and next month you can taste it, alongside two others – from 2013 and 2014 – at a Trinity Hill tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits on Thursday 16 November from 6pm to 8pm. Well, that is, you can taste, if you have booked a spot because this tasting sold out almost as soon as we opened it up. If you’re keen to come along, you can get on our waiting list – email John Shearlock at

And if you’re as interested in reading as you are in tasting, stay with me.

Homage is Trinity Hill’s flagship wine and was first made in 2002 to highlight the potential of the Syrah grape and Hawke’s Bay. Back in 2002, Syrah and Hawke’s Bay were like a newly wed couple. Untested, unproven and, in most wine drinkers’ minds, a partnership that had yet to be properly consummated. So, a flash wine with a $105 (give or take) price tag could have been seen as a risky proposition, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so impressively made from day one.

The wine has since gone on to gather a following of Syrah devotees, not only in New Zealand, but around the world. Which is no mean feat for a wine that is made in relatively small quantities – about 600 bottles are produced in years when Homage is made, so there’s not a lot to go around. About a third of the production is sold directly into bars and restaurants before it has even left the winery.   

Last month I was lucky enough to try every vintage of Trinity Hill Homage ever made, and the best vintages, were, in my view, – 2015, 2014, 2013. The very best of the bunch is the newest from 2015.

Like all vintages of Homage, the 2015 is a statement wine. Big, bold and powerful but it is also more approachable than many Syrahs are when they’re first launched onto the market. This is because the wine has evolved significantly since it was first made.

To begin with, the use of oak has changed. Initially,100% new French oak was used during the wine’s maturation process and Homage has always been bottled in a weighty bottle to suggest a big wine. The bottle remains, but today the wine has taken a turn in an elegant new direction – and it’s all the better for it.

Whole bunches were introduced to the fermentation in 2013, which was when the amount of new oak began to decline too, thankfully. And – perhaps not so thankfully but understandably, given the extra care in the winemaking – the price has risen – to about $135 a bottle, give or take a dollar or two at different retailers.

The burning question is: Is Homage a better wine as a result of these changes?

As Meg Ryan said in When Harry met Sally, yes, yes, yes.

The 2015 Trinity Hill Homage is fresh off the bottling line and is undoubtedly the best vintage of Homage ever, in my view.

New Zealand wine writers were invited to Hawke’s Bay last month (September 2017) to taste every vintage of Homage: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The style of the wine has changed noticeably and while age comes into the stylistic diversity of a vertical tasting like this, the better wines are from 2013, 2014 and 2015 – a string of exceptionally good vintages in Hawke’s Bay. Each of these years had temperatures which were drier, sunnier and warmer than usual.

Winemakers Warren Gibson and Damian Fischer considered the amount and type of oak they used and decided to reduce it because they wanted to change the texture of the tannins and how dense they feel in the mouth. The wine will no doubt continue to evolve and I’m looking forward to tracking its journey in the future.

In the meantime, next month we are tasting an impressive line up from Trinity Hill Winery, including the three most recent vintages of Homage.

If you can’t join us in the flesh, join us in spirit and head down to Regional Wines to pick up a bottle of the outstanding 2014 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett or push the boat out and buy the latest Homage. As many famous people have supposedly said – and it is true – we only regret the things we don’t do.

 The Trinity Hill tasting

Taste Trinity Hill at Regional Wines on Thursday 16 November, 6pm to 8pm, $45 per person. This tasting is now booked out but you can join our waiting list. Email John Shearlock, tastings coordinator at:

 Here are the wines we will taste:

2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Marsanne Viognier

2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay

2016 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo

2015 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah

2014 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett

2015 Trinity Hill Homage

2014 Trinity Hill Homage